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Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The Spanish Government has stated that it wishes to bring in legislation in this parliament to legalise assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The minister of health and the consumer, Bernat Soria, said the government was going to review euthanasia and did not rule out changes to the country’s penal code.

Soria explained that the government was looking at the situation in Holland and Switzerland where the legislation did allow for this type of death. He added that both his ministry and the Ministry of Justice would work together to see how a new law could be implemented and expected a decision to be made in a year and a half.

The problem with any debate on euthanasia is that it is carried out in the abstract with those involved largely having no understanding of how a terminally ill person may view it.

In December several years ago I visited a three-patient room in the Punta Europa Hospital in Algeciras. One of the patients was a man in his 70s who was in the terminal stages of cancer. He was attended by his wife and sister from Madrid. She said that there he would not have been allowed to suffer in this way and his life would have been ended. Maybe so or maybe not but in January I re-visited the hospital and although I went to a different room I met the man’s wife who told me his anguish was still continuing. Then days later I learned that there had been a commotion in the early hours of the morning and the man had died but sadly his passing had not been a peaceful one.

So with assisted suicide where would the process kick-in? When a person was diagnosed with terminal cancer? When a person stopped reacting to those around them? When a person was in unacceptable pain? When the family could no longer cope or wanted it finished? When the health service decided it did not want to fund any more treatment?

During the era of Franco Spain had one of the most repressive regimes in the Western World based on solid support for the Catholic Church. Today Spain is a secular State and one gets the impression that the president of the government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is intent on creating the most liberal regime in the Western World for no better reason than to distance the country as far away from the fascist era as possible. For not only is this government intent on introducing euthanasia but it is also reviewing the abortion legislation. Both these actions threaten to split an already divided nation and the accusation is that they are on the agenda now to divert attention from the Spain’s financial woes.

Not surprising then that there has been bitter opposition to the euthanasia proposals which of course divide on left and right lines, between those who are secular and those who are Catholics. The Partido Popular’s vice president of communications and spokesperson, Esteban González Pons, accused the government of “liquidating people at the expense of the social security system.” The president of the right to life organisation HazteOir, Ignacio Arsuaga, stated that these proposals confirmed that the Zapatero administration “was the government of death...intent on destroying life in the final moments.” However the association Derecho a Morir Dignamente said its members were “very hopeful” at the minister’s announcement, and looked forward to a “significant change”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have just been watching a Sky News special on cancer care. A patient with terminal cancer was refused treatment as it would be a waste of money and offered a "very good" terminal package instead. I suppose in Spain he would be offered euphanasia. Russel T